Get Down in the Garden: Beat Seasonal Back Pain with these 3 Tips

Spring has sprung! Gardening is an activity a lot of people enjoy, and I am learning to be a more competent gardener and enjoying it a lot more. Several clients I have been able to interact with have helped me learn new things about gardening, not only how to develop my green thumb, but also how challenging it can be to continue gardening when in pain.  The deep knee bending, forward bending without support, crawling, lifting heavy bags of dirt, reaching overhead, and so many more activities related to gardening can become difficult and painful over time.  


Gardening is supposed to be a way to decrease stress and pain, not add to it.  Why is it that such a beneficial activity for so many people can become challenging?  Here are a few points to consider and some strategies that can be utilized to help make gardening great again.

Consideration 1- Seasonal activity

Even if you live in a warm climate year round like I do in Houston, the bulk of the gardening work does still revolve around a seasonal upswing in the spring.  


Take this into consideration- what did you do to prepare yourself for this increase in “new” activity with the seasonal shift from winter to spring?  Were you practicing getting up and down from the ground? Did you preemptively start lugging around large bags of dirt and mulch to get your body stronger for that task?  Did you spend hours practicing an unsupported forward bending position to prepare yourself for sowing new seeds in your vegetable garden?  


Based on my anecdotal evidence and personal experience, I will guess the answer to most of these questions is going to be a loud NO.  And that is totally OK!!


Management Tip

Soreness, stiffness, and achiness associated with a new task, or a task that you have not done in some time is TOTALLY NORMAL!  And it DOES NOT MEAN YOU HURT YOURSELF!!  


I spent most of my winter prepping for a marathon- lots of running, not a lot of bending, twisting, kneeling, and lifting/carrying heavy shit.  After I spent a weekend doing those things I was hurting on Monday. But I knew to keep moving- walking was a great way to get blood flowing and soreness to subside.  


My best advice to you is to keep moving!  Try a walk, maybe an easy mobility series to help out those stiff joints.  And DO NOT FREAK OUT! Remember, your body will react to this new activity as it acclimates to it.  This is normal. And expected. It is OK!

Consideration 2- It’s ok to get help

Grab a chair!  Get a step stool to sit on or to assist you to the ground when needed.  It’s ok to have an external assist to make the job easier. Get family involved!  My favorite part about gardening in the spring was helping pick out and plant the flowers with my mom.  Recruit family, friends, neighbors. Make it social- when it is safe #covid19problems


Management Tip

Partner lifts make things easier.  Double up on the effort when lifting bags of mulch and soil to literally lighten the load you are moving.


Consideration 3- Make your garden accessible

This could be more of a long term investment project but maybe consider raised beds.  


Start some container gardens that can sit a little higher to limit the amount of up and down or bending over to match where your body’s tolerance for those activities is at at the present time.  The container gardens can alway be moved to a new surface when you are able to tolerate more of the irritable activities like the deep knee bends or the forward bending.  


Mount garden tools at an accessible height for you- down low, at waist height, overhead, it doesn’t matter. Pick what would work best for you and your body!


Management Tip

Choose a surface that can change with your tolerance levels.  In my garden I have a couple containers that can be moved up or down on some cinder blocks to vary their height levels and introduce more graded exposure to my gardening routine.

I hope these considerations and management tips have been a helpful addition to your gardening tool box.  I would love to hear other ideas and see some beautiful garden shots as all your hard work comes together!